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Speedo Says...

Date 25-05-2017
Speedo Chic! The History of Speedo’s Swimwear Design

There are few names as well known in the Swimwear world as Speedo. Since Alexander MacRae started the company in 1914 the brand has become synonymous with style, performance and quality.

There are few names as well known in the Swimwear world as Speedo. Since Alexander MacRae started the company in 1914 the brand has become synonymous with style, performance and quality.

Revolutionising the world of swimwear, Speedo created the world’s first non-wool swimsuit in the form of the figure-hugging ‘Racerback’ style. Although it was a suit that was seen as controversial when it debuted in 1927, it was quickly adopted by competitive swimmers. This innovative suit meant swimmers were freer when in the water and could swim faster than ever before. This originality and creativity is something that is still true of the Speedo ethos today, and the Racerback is still an important part of the design of swimwear as it was in the early 20th Century.

Oliver Royce, Swimwear Designer at Speedo says that the Racerback design has become a fundamental part of the swimwear industry. “This style of back has become so ubiquitous that many people wouldn’t ever know that it started with us over 80 years ago. We have to understand that it was so long ago, it’s nearly twice the age of the mini skirt and even older than the red telephone box.”

(Image caption: Oliver Royce, Speedo swimwear designer)

Like the Racerback, Speedo's legacy is heavily down to the fact that designs have adapted to the needs of women and what they need from their swimwear. “Much of what we design is affected by how women choose to spend their time in and around the swimming pool,” Royce explains.

“In the last 20 years we have seen a dramatic improvement in swimming pools with hygiene and warmth improving. We have also seen a change in how women use the swimming pool. The rise in ‘athleisure’ and fitness has seen women who normally rejected lane swimming as mundane take up pool workout classes such as AquaSpin, and obviously we had to create swimwear that responded to this new need. In 2017 we’ll be releasing a truly multi-purpose collection that supports working out both in and around water.”

Much like any piece of fashion, Royce says that designing swimwear is a process with many stages, from initial inspiration to design and creation. “We spend a fair amount time travelling to see the people that work on our product, but also around the world as a design team to gain inspiration for the upcoming season. We spend a huge amount of time with the people that buy and wear Speedo to understand where our product could be better and how they make use of it.”

It's this relationship with the people who use and create Speedo's swimwear that helps to develop pieces that meet the performance requirements of the people wearing them. “Bigger projects can be the result of years worth or work,” Royce says, “or shorter projects that require a fast turn around can often be achieved in a few months. I have to be sure that there is a genuine need for the new product we’re about to create that doesn’t exist in our current offering. What distinctly separates us from others is that our swimsuits have a purpose. It’s their needs that directly informs the way I make design decisions.”

Of course technology does play a part in the design of new pieces, although Royce explains that traditional design process are still used to this day. “We used to work with flat drawings, like many design houses still do but drawing a garment flat pays no respect to the female form. We work digitally in 3D and it has dramatically improved the shape and design of the swimsuits that we sell. It’s a real strength as a designer to be able to consider the way a seam wraps round the body or the shape over the leg.

(Image caption: The official Speedo green and gold Australian team suit worn in 1966)

The future of female swimwear is set to be a collaborative effort between those who wear the product and the people who design and make these iconic pieces. Women want swimwear that meets a number of needs – from athletic performance and usability to style as well as daily use. “Women tell us that they’re after more Olympic medals so we’ll continue to work with them on swimming product that assists them in those incredible achievements. Other women swim daily and simply need a swimsuit that performs to the standards our female customers have come to expect from us...How and where women choose to pave their way into the future is up to them and our history has proven that we’ll always be there to support them.”

Discover the latest Speedo swimwear here.